AMERICAN GODS, the novel written by Neil Gaiman, is coming to television on April 30th. The series is created by Bryan Fuller (HANNIBAL, PUSHING DAISIES) and Michael Green (LOGAN, HEROES). The show boasts an incredible cast, including Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Pablo Schreiber, and more. The Knockturnal got to sit down with the three writers to talk about the show’s first season.
THE KNOCKTURNAL: What aspects of the original text were you most excited to bring to life with the TV series?
Neil Gaiman: I was most excited to see the Wednesday-Shadow relationship actually made flesh. I was most excited to see the women’s parts expanded, because the novel had a finite number of pages, and most of it was from Shadow’s point of view, so I always felt frustrated that I couldn’t go off and spend lots of time in the heads of the women in the book. And I was also thrilled that we got the racial make-up of the characters; the racial diversity which wasn’t a “colorblind” casting, it was a very specific kind of casting, and I was hoping to see that, and thrilled that we got it.
Bryan Fuller: One of the very first things that Michael and I did, when we sat down to talk about the show, was to remind each other of the things that stood out when we first read the book fifteen years ago. We both mentioned Salim and The Jinn as a story that was something we felt we could do well by. That is probably one of the most aggressive, surreal, sexual scenes committed to film for two gay Muslim me.
Michael Green: Shadow meeting Lucy Ricardo always stood out. The Zorya Sisters were always a personal favorite. Essie Tregowan, which, spoiler alert, we’ve renamed Essie McGowan because we changed which town she comes from. And Shadow meeting Wednesday for the first time. Those were all scenes that I just remember very vividly from my first read many years ago.
One thing you guys have talked about is how a big theme of the book, and now the series, is immigration. Can you go a bit more into depth about how you tried to portray these different stories of coming to America? And also, what makes it very prevalent for today?
Gaiman: Well when I started writing it, it was almost twenty years ago. And as far as I was concerned, the LEAST contentious thing in the book was this idea that we are living in a huge continent, populated by immigrants. People who’ve come here, one way or another. Some may have crossed the Land Bridge, or come in boats twenty thousand years ago. And some of them came more recently, and some of them came of their own free will, and some were dragged here in chains, or sent here as captives. But the idea that this is an immigrant country, and that the country has benefited from the fact that people come here from all over, these things did not seem contentious. There were things that I could imagine people having a problem with, like the Bilquis scene. But that did not seem to be contentious, and I was amazed in this more recent world. When I spoke about it to an English newspaper, and they put an article up on it, having people go “Oh, we’re going to boycott this show because of this extreme political point of view.” And I’m going, “… No, this was a ‘we hold these things to be self-evident’ territory, as far as I was concerned.
And how did you two approach these immigration stories as the show runners?
Fuller: Well, it was part and parcel of our first conversations about the show were “this is a book about immigrants, and this is a country filled with immigrants.” So we never looked at is as anything potentially inflammatory, we just felt that there was something deeply relatable about being a stranger in a strange land, trying to make a life for yourself that wasn’t the life you led before you arrived. That felt so genuinely emotional that it never occurred to us that ‘immigrant’ would be a hot topic of any kind. But it is, sadly.
Green: Yeah, we approached it with warmth. Because those stories are charming, they are relatable, everyone knows where they came from. Those stories are part of people’s personal identity, of what your “American experience” is. And the one American experience that is shared is that everyone came from somewhere. So it’s with an incredible amount of disappointment and unease that we now have to look at those stories through a new lens of “well, some people think that makes your experience inauthentic, or less authentic, than an imagined American experience that some people would choose to believe is better.”